Facility Management in 2018: Focus on people empowerment – not check boxes

What's important when working with Facility Management in 2018? Where should your focus be? We've discussed this with the IFMA Board Chair, William O'Neill.   

Is Facility Management as we traditionally know it changing?

In recent decades, Facility Management has transformed from manually labour-intensive work into a more digitized field of practice that is more automated and strategic.

While being an enormous driver of change, digitization also brings challenges to the Facility Management profession. In many cases, Facility Management professionals aren’t prepared for the emergence of new technologies and their experience with new digital technologies is limited. They may need to re-learn a lot of what they have been doing for years.

Organizations have forward-thinking visions to implement the latest technologies in the work environment. Yet, too often, not enough attention is given to the people in the supply chain who the technologies are going to impact. This leads to a disconnect between the technology and the people who use it.

How can we make the introduction of new technologies more efficient in the workplace?

We need to make the right training available and be more transparent about what kind of capabilities are needed.

The other part of the equation is to make the right strategic decisions at the executive level when procuring technologies and introducing them to the work environment. Facility Management has a huge role to play in these decisions. We need to enhance the focus on how technologies impact the Facility Management profession and the organization.

Creating cross-sharing groups and teams within the organization and across regions is also worthwhile as this would allow to build broader best practices and enable more efficient knowledge-sharing.


Is a closer cooperation with IT needed for Facility Managers to be able to utilize the new technologies in a more efficient manner?

We certainly need more ongoing conversations with the IT departments. Traditionally IT operated as an organizational monopoly, updating and maintaining IT systems. But that siloed approach to IT is no longer efficient. It can lead to costly oversights and problems with building system performance.

Often, there is a disconnect between IT folks who maintain that perception that everything technology related is their field of work. However, while IT may own the connection and the upgrading - they can't own the outcomes of the system and the things that are needed to modify it and make it more useful for the Facility Management professionals and the company.

Now we’ve discussed the challenge and the change, what would you say is the biggest opportunity for Facility Managers right now and in the future?

The biggest opportunity lies in realizing and then harnessing the importance of people. If we can become more people-centric and start tapping into the experiences and outcomes of the building occupants, then we can help the organization to meet its long-term goals in a more value-added way.

Facility Management professionals need to support a vision that embraces people before the building. They need to focus on the experience and getting people engaged with the vision of the company and the company purpose.

We need to move away from bureaucracies and check-boxes and focus on empowering people. We need to facilitate an environment where people can live and breathe the company because they find it valuable and because it gives them a meaning.

This is not something that will happen overnight. It requires executive support and visionary leadership. Not a sole attention to management, physical assets and structure. It’s also not something that will happen everywhere at once. Some companies will be early adopters and gain the benefits of that frontier. Others, seeing that there is a better way will adopt. And, ultimately, some will be dragged forward simply because failing to adapt will make them uncompetitive.


If Facility Managers are to focus more on the organizational and cultural aspect and the facilitation of purpose – then we’re suddenly not only turning to IT in our practice – but also HR.  How can we cope with that?

If Facility Management professionals take the approach of working for a shared vision then yes – close discussions with HR are of tremendous importance. But, of course, that’s not new. Facility Management has always been about marrying the needs of people to the possibilities of technology.

And it’s more than just IT and HR. To truly achieve the best results, Facility Management must get buy-in from across the organization. Together the various departments need to figure out, what kind of facilities, services and technologies that can benefit the diverse occupant segments and which assets or ways of working can comprise a barrier to a better workplace.

Together we need to find better opportunities for education, team-sharing, collaboration but also review company policies that once may have served the company well but that are no longer relevant in an environment with high level of diversity in thinking and behaviour.

Just think about the different desires of different generations. Some may want designated office space, whereas others may not want any specific place. If you have policies that are detrimental to certain employee groups or segments, then you’re not only hurting the well-being and productivity of those employees – but the efficiency of the company as a whole.

Enough about FM now let’s turn our attention to IFMA. How is IFMA going to support the Facility Manager of today and the one of the future?

IFMA’s vision is to continue to operate as the premier global FM organization. We’ve taken a critical step by establishing a strong collaboration with RICS. This collaboration is undoubtedly supporting a more global reach and presence than we ever have had before.

The collaboration also gets us to ask: where does FM fit in the built environment category and how can we help Facility Management professionals to respond to the continuous changes they are facing?

We’re very focused on building the best resource repository for education, events, networking and creating the best environment for employee and membership engagement. Change is rapid and accelerating and we’re doing everything we can to support our members the best we can of facing the new realities.

How to create best-in-class workplace experiences? Get the insights in our ISS 2020 Vision White Book: The Future of Work, Workforce and Workplace